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Full text of "Mathematical And Physical Papers - Iii"

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reflected ray is the plane of reflexion. According to this theory, if we resolve the vibrations in the incident ray horizontally and vertically, the resolved parts will correspond to the two rays, polarized respectively in and. perpendicularly to the plane of reflexion, into which the incident ray may be conceived to be divided, and of these the former alone is capable of furnishing a reflected ray, that is of course a ray reflected vertically upwards. And in fact observation shows that, in order to quench the dispersed beam, it is sufficient, instead of analysing the reflected light, to polarize the incident light in a plane perpendicular to the plane of reflexion.
Now in the case of several of the beams actually observed, it is probable that many of the particles were really small compared with the length of a wave of light. At any rate they can hardly fail to have been small enough to produce a tendency in the polarization towards what it would become in the limit. But no tendency whatsoever was observed towards polarization in a plane perpendicular to the plane of reflexion. On the contrary, there did appear to be a tendency towards a more complete polarization in the plane of reflexion.
M. Babinet has been led by the same reasoning to an opposite conclusion respecting the direction of the vibrations in polarized light, resting on an experiment of M. Arago's, in which it appeared that when light was incident perpendicularly on the surface of white paper, and the reflected or rather scattered light was viewed in a direction almost grazing the surface, it was found to be partially polarized in the plane of the sheet of paper*. But the actions which take place when light is incident on a broad irregular surface, like that of paper, bounding too a body which is so translucent that a great part of the light must enter it and come out again, appear to me to be too complex to allow us to deduce any conclusion from the result respecting the direction of vibration. Besides, the result itself admits of easy explanation, by attributing it to the light which has entered the substance of the paper and come out again, which might be expected to be polarized by refraction.
* Comptes Rendus, Tom. xxix. p. 514.